Venice may have its "Bienniale" of the avant-garde arts, but Maui touts fame of its own with its spectacular triennial Schaefer Portrait Challenge at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center's Schaefer International Gallery.
This year, jurors Sally French, Duane Preble and Michael Takemoto selected 59 works by 58 artists.
The rules governing the juried exhibit are simple: The artist must live in Hawai'i. The subject must be from Hawai'i. The artist must utilize at least one live sitting. Self-portraits are allowed and any media may be used except photography and digital, which are characterized as "too mechanical." The work must be original, especially created for this show and not shown anywhere else, including on a Website.
Jonathan Yukio Clark, who earned the $15,000 Juror’s Choice Award, stands with his grandmother, Catherine Yamada, the subject of his prize-winning piece.
Thanks to the generosity of Carolyn & Jack Schaefer Gray, the show offers one of the most lucrative prizes in American Art-$15,000 in cash for the Juror's Choice Award. Maui's Jonathan Yukio Clark took the prize for a portrait of his grandmother, Catherine Yamada. In his portrait, Yamada stands in front of an ornate wood panel flanked by her obi. The one on the left represents Japan; the right, her life in Hawai'i. Clark has demonstrated his excellence and versatility in every show he has entered. Remember that name.
In addition, the $5,000 Marian Freedman Peoples' Choice prize will be determined on Feb. 19 by a vote of exhibit visitors. This award is made possible by Gage Schubert.
The jurors struggled between Clark and runner-up Stephen Garnin's emotional portrait of the late Parez Punaluu Kahikina, a Kalaupapa native son, who is shown by the grave of his father. Both of his parents died at Kalaupapa from Hansen's disease. He hardly knew his father, but his proud, defiant look speaks volumes about their relationship.
Ken Kennell is a master of pointillism, one of the most difficult techniques in painting. His portraits of music master Keola Beamer were facilitated by Bob Getzen, who made the eight cubes for the paintings. Kennell presents 41 paintings with 51 images of Keola and his family. It's a breathtaking piece. Don't miss the video by Roberta Hodera to see everything in this outstanding work.
Every Schaefer Portrait Challenge features a great, new, young artist breaking onto the scene. The first challenge in 2003 introduced Kirk Kurokowa, who went on to win the second portrait challenge in 2006. In 2009, Noble Richardson was showcased. In 2012, it's Brentton Demello, a Hawai'i Island artist who graduated from Kea'au High School in 2009.
The acid test for an artist is how he or she handles graphite. Drawing is the foundation for every great artist, and Demello passed with flying colors. His self-portrait on linen is a vision of who he hopes to become.
The exhibit contains several examples of non-traditional portraiture, including Stephen Freedman's impressionistic ceramic of former Schaefer Gallery Director Darrell Orwig; Patrick Daniel Sarsfield's fabulous steel sculpture, "In Falo's Shadow: Lillian Ruth Tavares;" Roberta Griffith's clay mask, "Myself: Inside Out;" and Nancy Skrimstad's wonderful mixed media piece, "Me, inside out, Tusen Takk, Trygve, AAgot, Bjorn."
Two of the most unusual and non-traditional works in the show were created by Verdine Kong and Vince Hazen. Kong has taken a cue from the late Romare Bearden, who was a well-known master collagist. Kong's portrait of her husband, former Judge Geronimo Valdriz, is done entirely from cut paper. Hazen's amazing "Middle Child" was made by transferring images with tape.
Roger B. Stephens is one of the few artists with two works in the show. His paintings of artist Tom Sewell and radio personality Bill Best are larger than life with idealized images and psychedelic backgrounds.
More traditional works include Daniel Bilme's representation of architect Hunton Conrad, Chris Campbell's portrait of Sam Cooke, Michael Carroll's loving portrait of wife Kathy and Emily Carder's luminous portrait a child in a lychee tree. Incredibly, Carder is self-taught-that "self" must be Caravaggio and Rembrandt. This is accomplished work at the highest level.
The impressive Schaefer Portrait Challenge will continue through March 11. Visit the gallery Wednesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., before shows in the Castle Theater and during intermissions.